Case Study - Research plan for a customised postcard mobile app
In October, 2019, I was hired to develop a user research plan for a custom postcard service. Below you can find the plan as it was designed for the purposes of presenting it to the stakeholders.
At its current state he Postcard App enables users to take a selfie on the go and send a printed postcard to somebody else through a printing company. Currently, it is aimed at young people who might want to send postcards to their friends on holiday, as well as 20-35 year olds who want to keep older members of their family updated occasionally.
For this preliminary research of the Selfie Postcard App, the main objectives are:
To validate the target audiences and explore other possible use cases.
To explore time and money effective customisation features for an MVP.
To understand the potential users’ thoughts, needs and perceptions of the product.
In order to meet these objectives User Research based on UCD and Lean UX methodologies will be carried out and the results will be used to inform the design features based on the target user groups’ needs. Both user and business goals need to be taken into account in order to define the core competencies of this product.
Before developing and testing a Minimum Viable Product, a series of questions need to be explored with User Research such as:
What user needs does the Selfie Postcard App meet?
What moment or part of the user’s journey through the Selfie Postcard App makes the product unique compared to its competitors?
What is the pain point that Selfie Postcard App solves that is not being solved by competitor products?
What is the most important thing that potential users can do with the Selfie Postcard App that is not currently being done by other products?
What is the feature/scenario that would make potential users love the product?
A five step framework for contacting user research namely “The Research Learning Spiral”, will be followed as described on the diagram below. The first three steps are based on formulating and answering questions, and the last two on gathering data and synthesising it to validate or invalidate the formulated hypotheses.
To validate our assumptions for the product and develop a testable MVP a number of hypotheses about the users and the product are made. As user research is an iterative process, these hypotheses are not final, and new ones can be added along the way during the lifecycle of the product, as well as the present ones could be enhanced with the results of the research.
H1: Young adults (18 - 35) would like to send physical postcards to their friends and family on holidays and special occasions
H2: Young tech-savvy adults (18 - 35) would like to have a way to keep their less tech-savvy family members updated in a tangible way
H3: Young adults (18 - 35) are more likely to send a physical postcard if they are able to personalise and customise it
H4: Older adults (35 - 55) would like to send personalised photo postcards to their family on holidays
H5: New parents would like to update their family members about their children with personalised photo postcards
H6: Young adult travellers would like to send personalised postcards to their friends and families with photos from their travels
H1: If postcard personalisation includes holiday themes it will be used instead of greetings cards by young and older adults.
H2: If photos can be derived from the users’ social media accounts, young people (20-35) will be more likely to choose them
H3: If the process of customisation is simple and straightforward, older adults (35-55) will be more comfortable in using the service to send postcards
The methods section describes a detailed plan of actions to explore these hypotheses further.
Competitive Research is an effective way to find products and services that try to solve similar problems (or the same), identify their key experiences and explore user adaptation other possible user groups. It can provide information about shortfalls and pain points that are not currently being addressed, as well as possible opportunities for innovation from our part.
In the case of the Selfie Postcard App, competitive research will provide the possibility to discover user groups that have not been considered and develop new use cases. It can also provide valuable information about the way of thinking and needs of existing customers in the field of postcard printing.
Direct/Indirect Competitors An exploration of direct and Indirect competitors will provide an overview of how other companies are tackling this challenge, and by exploring their product’s key experiences we will be able to define ours.
Competitive Advantage By defining the key experience that the Selfie Postcard App service will provide based on the results from the research on competitors, we will be able to define our competitive advantage and develop our MVP based on that.
With the results from competitive research in hand, proto-personas representing the core user groups that were identified from the competitive research in combination with the initial idea can be crafted and used to inform the design of features and user-flows. Personas can give an empathetic sense of the users’ goals, needs, and motivations and can work as a starting point for identifying participants for further user research and user testing.
Robin and Ruby represent the current target audience, as described by the PM. They represent the “young adult” user group who will use the Selfie Postcard App to keep their family updated for their lives and travels, as well as keep in touch with their friends on holidays and social occasions.
Joyce represents the new parent user group who would use the app to keep their families and friends up to date with their children’s development and achievements.
Kathrene represents the older adults who would use the app to send personalised postcards to their relatives on holidays, instead of sending traditional greeting cards.
Preliminary User Interviews
User Interviews at the first stages of the product development, even before an MVP is designed are a good way of collecting information on what workarounds people use to solve specific challenges and how we could make those processes easier for them with our service.
It is equally important to approach every identified user group and learn about their experiences and pain points.
Interviews at this stage can be short and conducted in as guerilla interviews. Some questions that would be useful to ask for Self Postcard App include:
How do people keep in touch with their families/friends at the moment?
Do they send postcards or other types of cards?
If they do, what means are they using for that?
What challenges do they face when they try to send postcards/greeting cards?
How do they overcome these challenges right now?
Have they heard of [similar service] that prints customised cards?
Design and Development of MVP
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is always a good way to quickly validate the assumptions and learn more about the potential users and their intentions of using our service. It is easy to create, cost effective, and can provide great insights for future development.
The developed MVP will be tested with users in a variety of different ways, in order to gather both qualitative and quantitative data about the user’s attitudes and behaviours towards the product, and use that feedback to improve and design a production ready service. It is important to measure the action potential users will take towards the service, and this can be measured in a variety of ways.
Selfie Postcard App provides a photo customisation and printing service for users who would like to send postcards made by their photos and customised for their various needs. The MVP should deploy the hypotheses made in the discovery phase and target specific hypotheses and use cases, aiming to tackle the risks associated with the hypotheses in a cost-effective way.
Some ways to achieve that include:
Social Media Campaign An online campaign as well as a website dedicated to the service can be used as an introduction to Selfie Postcard App, and will have a quantifiable input (followers, email subscriptions for updates, possible approach from investors interested in the product). A short form explainer video, explaining the key experiences identified at the discovery phase and the benefits of Selfie Postcard App.
Short Surveys Short surveys prompted by the campaign are a good way to collect quick quantitative data for the service, regarding user engagement, satisfaction, and interest. These short surveys can be used both at the first stages but also later on when the app is live.
Incentives for feedback Incentives can be used both as advertisement and prompt for feedback. In the case of Selfie Postcard App incentives can be in the form of tangible products like free postcards, which will encourage people to use the product and provide their feedback.
Advertisement on social media A significant part of target users for the Selfie Postcard App are young adults who are likely to be social media users. Advertisement on social media for Selfie Postcard App as an upcoming service can provide useful insights from Click Through Rate (CTR).
The data provided by the MVP dissemination can be used to inform the rest of the features and use cases that will be used in the finalised version which is intended to go live on the app store after usability testing.
Getting into the live version of the Selfie Postcard App, with a clear value proposition and a set of features that will cover the users’ needs, a new stage in the lifecycle of the product begins where user testing and user feedback is crucial at every step.
Steps can be repeated as needed.
In-depth user interviews
Iterations and new assumptions/hypotheses based on the results